Former tennis great Margaret Court was in the news – again – this week after being awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC). This was a promotion from the Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) award bestowed on the reverend way back in 2007. And while in the past Court has caused controversy with her words, this week it was with her numbers.
During an interview on 3AW with broadcaster Neil Mitchell about the merits of her AC and AO awards, Court cited her work in community outreach in Perth, where her charity “puts out 75 tonnes of food a week”. That’s 75,000 kg of edible grocery items every single week! To put you in the picture: that’s about 100,000 loaves of bread – an amount that would fill six big supermarket trucks to the brim. Multiplied to an annual total that works out to 3.9 million kg a year – a total that outperforms the WA branch of Foodbank, Australia’s largest hunger-relief charity. They reported for FY2020 that they only managed to distribute 3.5 million kg, and that was over the whole state. With figures that big, Court needs to upscale her website claim of “one of the largest” emergency food distributors in Perth to “undisputed state champion” – a title befitting a tennis legend.
You can add more tucker to the table by comparing Court’s claim of 75 tonnes a week to the efforts of OzHarvest, another emergency food provider. In FY2019, OzHarvest distributed 24 tonnes of food a week across Perth using seven delivery vans and a throng of at least 230 volunteers. In the same year, Court’s charity reported only four full time staff and 60 volunteers. So she’s again outperformed the competition, beating OzHarvest 3 to 1 on food tonnage distributed with less than a quarter of the staff. In business terms, that’s a grand slam!
Handing out 75,000 kgs of food a week to struggling families would be a remarkable achievement. Producing even one-tenth of that amount would go a long way to helping people in need while providing numerical assurance for the rest of us.
Simon Pampena is a stand-up mathematician and transcendent nerd. He travels the world sharing his love of mathematics with anyone who will listen.
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